By Konstantine Fekos
VERNON TOWNSHIP —
Members and supporters of French Creek Recreational Trails, the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization in charge of Ernst Trail, gathered at the Bailey Trailhead on Saturday morning to celebrate the fruits of more than a decade of labor — the official dedication of its roughly two-mile extension.
The extension takes the trail south from Krider Road and west across Route 19, following somewhat parallel to Bailey Road near to its intersection with South Watson Run Road.
The ceremony served to “thank a lot of people who contributed to the trail over the years,” according to Dick Eglinton, FCRT president.
Among those praised were individuals and companies who gave contributions of funds and labor, lawyers and accountants who offered advice to FCRT-related matters at no cost, families and property owners who allowed rights of way for the trail to cross their lands, and more.
“We’ve gotten a lot of help from the community,” he said. “And it’ll be up to us and the community going forward.”
Eglinton joined children and other adults who cut the dedication ribbon by riding through it on their bicycles in honor of the event.
About 50 members of the greater Meadville community attended Saturday’s celebration, which included remarks from Meadville Lions Club and local officials as well as face-painting, bike inspections and other activities.
Attending Meadville Lions held a brief dedication of their own for the trailhead pavilion and picnic tables they donated to the extension.
They dedicated the pavilion to the memory of the late Florence Hughes, a prominent member of the Meadville Lions Club, and expressed the hope that it will be used by cyclists and hikers for years to come.
The Ernst Trail is something which the community can really invest in and rally around, said Jack Lynch, Crawford County commissioner, calling the trail a “true community gem” that past and present members of the FCRT painstakingly made a reality.
Former FCRT committee member John Wallach emphasized the hard work and struggle necessary to bring the Ernst Trail and its subsequent extension to fruition.
“It took a tremendous effort and it’s a tremendous resource for the community,” he said. “I never thought I’d be standing here on this nearly two-mile segment. It’s really a banner day and then some.”
Even the trail extension, in the works since 2003, hit numerous obstacles from funding and design issues to securing permits and rights of way, according to Dave Shafer, FCRT consultant.
“We found solutions in light of all the challenges,” he said, thanking volunteers, financial backers and supporting agencies for their part in the trail efforts.
He hopes to make an official announcement in the near future regarding the next phase of the Ernst Trail, which involves winding a path up from the trailhead near Bean’s Auto on Route 322, along French Creek, under Smock Bridge and into the Kerrtown area. The present five-mile paved trail runs from behind Bean’s (across from the Park Avenue Plaza) to Route 19.
Shafer reported that the upcoming phase is currently pending permit approval and will ideally move forward this summer.
“In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful seven-mile trail,” he said.
“My hat goes off to every one of you,” said Dave Stone, Vernon Township manager. “Projects like this show what we have here. It makes the community better (and) healthier. And hopefully we can get it to Kerrtown.”
There are many ways in which community members can help the Ernst Trail continue to grow, Eglinton said, like volunteering administrative, clerical or other assistance to the FCRT or adopting a section of the trail.
“We don’t expect anything major,” said Peter Oven, coordinator of the Adopt-The-Trail program. “It’s (mainly) clearing branches and trash, the everyday small stuff. This helps us concentrate on bigger projects.”
Trail adoption usually involves half-mile segments for two-year periods, Oven said.
Anyone interested in participating in the program can contact Oven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You can help
Anyone interested in volunteering with French Creek Recreational Trails is encouraged to attend the group’s meetings, usually scheduled for 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month at the Meadville Community Health Center, 747 Terrace St.
Individuals or organizations interested in adopting and providing minor maintenance for one or more half-mile segments of the Ernst Trail can contact Peter Oven, Adopt-The-Trail coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.